BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Four Azeri and Turkish-American organizations launched a coordinated anti-Armenian campaign last week, attacking the integrity of Mark Hoplamazian, Chief Executive Officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, in order to intimidate him and other Armenian-American executives.
In a letter to Thomas Pritzker, Executive Chairman of Hyatt Board of Directors, leaders of the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations (ATAA), Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC), Federation of Turkish-American Associations (FTAA), and Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA) accused Hoplamazian of involvement in “ethnic propaganda campaigns.”
The Azeri and Turkish groups attacked Hoplamazian for speaking at the Sept. 22 banquet of “the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), an Armenian-American lobbying group, as a Hyatt executive.” They also expressed their unhappiness that he “serves on the Advisory Board of ‘Facing History and Ourselves,’ a non-profit group that ‘teaches about the Armenian genocide.’”
The four Turkic organizations claimed that “Mr. Hoplamazian’s engagement with ethnic special interest groups that spread antagonisms against Turkey and Azerbaijan may be in violation of the Conflicts of Interest clause of Hyatt’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.” However, a review of the hotel chain’s Code, posted on its website, does not provide the slightest hint that the Hyatt executive violated any of its provisions.
In their letter, the Azeri and Turkish groups made a series of malicious statements by referring to the Armenian Genocide as an “allegation” and “World War I-era inter-communal atrocities.” They falsely alleged that these “atrocities” were “never tried in any tribunal and no intent to exterminate Armenians was ever established. No sentences or court verdicts were issued in terms of the 1948 United Nations Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.”
By making such ridiculous claims, the leaders of these Turkic organizations simply exposed their ignorance of the basic facts of the Armenian Genocide. They conveniently forgot about the Turkish Military Tribunals of 1919 that sentenced the Turkish ringleaders of the Armenian Genocide to death. US, Swiss, and Argentinean Federal Courts have also reaffirmed the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted in 1985 a report classifying the Armenian Genocide as an example of genocide.
The Azeri and Turkish groups also claimed that they represent “over half million Americans of Turkic descent.” This cannot be true simply because there aren’t that many Turkic people living in the United States, according to the latest US census. Even if there were half a million Turkic Americans, it is highly doubtful if all of them would have given their consent to be represented by these organizations for such absurd misadventures. Most probably, these four groups altogether have a tiny fraction of the constituencies they claim!
Clearly, the faulty statements and silly accusations of these Turkic groups are intended to intimidate Hoplamazian and force him to disengage from any involvement in Armenian or genocide-related issues. More ominously, by targeting and making an example of the Hyatt CEO, Azeri and Turkish groups hope to discourage other Armenian-American executives from pursuing similar activities.
In their joint letter, the Azeri and Turkish groups have indirectly threatened Hyatt’s corporate interests by indicating that the company “currently runs a total of four successful hotels in Istanbul, Turkey, and Baku, Azerbaijan.” One wonders if the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey have authorized these two-bit groups to speak on their behalf. Moreover, do these organizations realize that they are undermining the business interests of their native countries by foolishly threatening a global corporation like Hyatt?
It would be highly regrettable if the unwise Azeri and Turkish campaign against prominent Armenian-American executives would start an undesirable chain of events that could lead the Armenian community to take counter-actions against successful Turkish-American businessmen, such as Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of Coca Cola Company.
The Azeri-Turkish letter is highly unlikely to bring any tangible benefits to these groups, as Hyatt’s Board of Directors would most probably dismiss their baseless allegations. More importantly, such a racist assault on the integrity of an exemplary Armenian-American executive would energize Armenians on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide to pursue more vigorously their just demands from both Turkey and Azerbaijan!
Lastly, it is outrageous that these Azeri and Turkish groupings kept totally silent when an Azeri officer axed to death a sleeping Armenian in Budapest, but are now alarmed when an Armenian-American CEO exercises his right to free speech in Beverly Hills!